The Wonder Woman movie was great, and it brought scores of new fans to the character. However, DC failed to capitalize on this movement by promoting a pretty generic DC Super Hero Girls comic instead of a real Wonder Woman story.

The Wonder Woman movie had Diana dealing with her high principals in a murky world, kicking the asses of Nazis and gods and tanks (if tanks have asses). There were kids – boys and girls – posing with the 3D posters at the theater.

Unfortunately, there’s none of that kick-ass strong woman in the kids marketing for DC. For a long time, it seemed that any comic book marketed to kids had to have almost no violence, and of course no sexuality, and no complex storyline.

The DC Super Hero Girls described Wonder Woman this way: “the Amazon warrior and princess who has never left her home on Paradise Island until now! In order to be the best Super Hero she can be, Wonder Woman has to juggle classes, new friendships, and seeing a boy for the first time – at the most elite school in the galaxy.”

I’m not kidding. Here’s the picture:

Ares isn’t the villain. He shows up and they hug or something.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to devalue the hard work of the people who put this comic together. It’s not a terrible book. It’s a breezy read, and the art is fun. But if you leave the theater expecting more of the same, you will be highly disappointed.

Wonder Woman was the first super hero movie my 10-year-old daughter had ever seen. She only wanted to see it because there was a girl kicking butt. So, she read this comic and was OK with it and moved on. She read it once and it really didn’t jive with her.

Instead, I loaned her this:

 Buy it here:
JLA Vol. 5 (Jla (Justice League of America))
This is a great story, and told perfectly. Wonder Woman has to share some screen time with her teammates, but she’s definitely more like the character that is in the movie.

In this one, a hapless mortal accidentally unleashes the Queen of Fables into the real world. Being a creature of fiction, her power is fed by imagination. She is fueled by fairy tales and horror movies and anything else writers can think of (and writers can think of some pretty messed up stuff). She mistakes Diana for her nemesis, Snow White, and casts a curse on her. The League has to travel into the world of myth, where Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth has great power.

Add to this, the fact that the team is hobbled by a lack of trust after Batman betrayed them with ways to defeat to them all. This lack of trust got worse as they faced off against Destiny and eventually, their alter egos and super hero personas got split and took on lives of their own.

During Mark Waid’s run on JLA, it felt like there was something cool happening on every page. And Bryan Hitch was able to make it happen.

My daughter eagerly read this graphic novel and loved it. It was more of the kick-butt girl she wanted.

This mistake isn’t new. When the very first X-Men movie came out, all the heroes from the movie were on different teams and Magneto was dead. I was working at a comic book store at the time. People came in looking for something like the movie for their kid, and I had trouble recommending something. Mostly because every issue of every comic back then was part 7 of a 14-issue story arc.

Comic companies have to remember the time decades ago when comics were all ages and reached a variety of fans. There’s a way to write so that kids can have that “gosh wow” feeling of cool action, and older readers can dig into the more sophisticated backstories.

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Book Cover or Movie Poster?

Posted: July 29, 2017 in Uncategorized

Strolling through the Greeting and Reading store in the Baltimore area, I noticed a trend in book covers. Many of them featured a hero – young enough to be a teen, serious enough to be an adult – in the middle of some apocalyptic wasteland or fantasy world.

 The_Maze_Runner_poster

I’m not the first person to notice all the dystopian fiction in YA lately, but what struck me was how many of these book covers were miniature movie posters.

I guess that’s a good thing. They’re both designed to do the same thing: get you interested in the story. But I almost expected “From the Producers of The Maze Runner” to be at the top.

There’s a movement right now where people are publicly shaming advertisers on Breitbart.com, the alt-right website. People are being urged to Tweet to businesses telling them to take down their advertising, unless they want to be associated with the website that once used the headline: “Gabby Giffords: The Gun Control Movement’s Human Shield.”

Here’s the problem: a lot of companies don’t know they are advertising there.

They advertise through Adwords, a Google platform. Like anything Google does, it is focused on the big reach. They want to find as many possible customers for your business as possible. So, they place ads everywhere. You want to advertise your national shoe company? It might wind up on Breitbart. You want to advertise your local lawn maintenance company? It might also wind up on Breitbart.

Adwords lets advertisers choose what websites they don’t want to appear on. However, it is a lot to ask of companies to scour the web and write down every site they disagree with.

Chances are, they just don’t realize their ads are there. So, don’t publicly shame them for something they had no idea about.

I went over to Breitbart when I heard about this public shaming movement. I wanted to see who was advertising there. So, to my surprise, there was a company I do a fair amount of business with. Its founder is of Middle Eastern descent, so I was a bit shocked to see that.

Instead of adding to the Twitstorm, I went to this company’s website and used “Contact Us” to send a quick e-mail letting them know where their ads were, and that it was probably an Adwords issue. I also warned them of the ill-informed backlash that some other companies are getting because of this. They responded in person within hours letting me know they wanted nothing to do with Breitbart and would inform their advertising director right away to fix this.

I understand the desire to fight inflammatory words with other inflammatory words, but in this case, you’d be hurting innocent advertisers in the crossfire. And besides, as the Red Dragon in Bone said, “Never play an ace if a 2 will do.”

Mild Fantastic Beasts spoilers

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Both franchises, Harry Potter and Star Wars, recently launched new films that explore more of their respective universes. But there’s a right way to do this and a wrong way.

The right way is “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” This movie introduced all new characters that fit snugly into the Harry Potter world. It felt right, while still being its own movie.

Characters apparate, and the movie doesn’t have to explain to you what’s happening. If you’re here, you already know. There are recognizable names and creatures and spells, and that makes you feel comfortable.

But, there are enough new things that keep it from being more of the same. Yes, we see yet more of muggle vs. magic…again…but we also see what happens to young wizards who are told that their power is evil, and that they should be ashamed of it. We see what happens when power is bottled up, with no healthy outlet. And we see the real world problem of child abuse in a fantasy world.

In short, it gave fans what they wanted, and things they didn’t know they wanted.

Star Wars Episode 7 was two hours of fan service. It didn’t really bring anything new to the saga. There wasn’t a feeling like it was breaking any new ground. It was too safe.

“Rogue One” tells the story of how the plans for the Death Star were found. It’s kind of like a Star Wars Tales comic, where they would tell one-shot stories about some obscure characters or side quests. Again, it might be too safe. You pretty much know how it will begin and how it will end.

Star Wars needs to step outside of its safe zone, and take some chances. If they are committed to making a new one every few years, the creators can’t be afraid of one of them only making $1.5 billion instead of $2 billion.

We don’t need to see a prequel that just tells you how Han Solo got his clothes. (I’m sure they’re going to tell us anyway.) We need to explore these worlds.

Of course, Fantastic Beasts had J.K. Rowling writing the story. She has already mapped out the marriages and children of most of the students at Hogwarts even though we (might) never see these stories. George Lucas seems to be out of the loop on the creative end, and that might make a difference. Some people say a good change, some say a bad change.

Other Worlds cover

Here there be spoilers…

Halfway through the fun cosmic adventure that is Dr. Strange, I realized that the movie followed the same structure as the failed Green Lantern movie:

In the first 15 minutes, we are introduced to the charming but deeply flawed hero. Whereas Green Lantern gave us a likable actor in Ryan Reynolds, Dr. Strange gave us a likable Benedict Cumberbatch. But Dr. Strange gave us something that Green Lantern never did: A reason why the protagonist decided to “protag.” Like the comic book creators say in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, “The question is why.” For Stephen Strange, his why is the same as Tony Stark and Thor Odinson: hubris. We never really get the “why” in Green Lantern. He just found a lantern and figured he’d become a super hero.

 

benedict_cumberbatch_as_doctor_strange

After the intro, both heroes are indoctrinated into a universe that is greater than the Earth they know. The GL Guardians can easily be substituted with the Ancient One and the rest of the sorcerers. They are a police force that protects Earth from otherworldly threats that the average person is completely unaware of.

They teach the hero how to bend reality to his imagination. They even give him a ring at one point. The hero goes through the stages of adventure, from denial to acceptance, and is soon kicking butt better than those who have trained for years. He faces off against the bad guy, who is just an appetizer for the cosmic, shapeless true evil. And his mentor turns bad.

Despite the parallels, Dr. Strange was a stronger movie. It wasn’t stuffed with characters, just enough to get through. There was only one computer-rendered character, and it was the end villain. Everything was grounded in an internal logic that explained why magic was OK. (And thank you, Marvel, for just saying it was magic, and not science or midi-chlorians or whatever.)

And finally, the fight scenes were unique to the movie. What I mean to say is that the action sequences could have only happened in this movie. In particular, the scene with mystic monks fighting while time is going backward was something I had never seen before and could only be done in this kind of movie.

What I learned: When people say that you can’t do something if it happened in another movie, you still can, if you do it better.

Other Worlds cover

I’ve been a reporter for more than a dozen years now. I am OK with the fact that people don’t believe everything they read. But I don’t understand how people think politicians are more believable than the media that covers them.

Politicians lie. That’s all there is to it. Every single one of them. I don’t care how wonderful your candidate is, they are a liar. They have lots of reasons to get you to believe what they’re telling you. It all has to do with money and power. And occasionally mistresses. That’s really all they want.

What Lies

This short satirical video explains it all.

And yet journalists are condemned as biased whenever they point out these shortcomings. In my admittedly short tenure, I have met some reporters who were biased against certain politicians. Some had a David complex, looking for a Goliath to slay. But most of the reporters I know don’t care who is in office as long as they give a good quote. They don’t have a horse in the race. If they are on anybody’s side at all, it’s the taxpayer.

Journalists make mistakes. I have made my share. But one mistake will make people condemn a news source, while politicians can make all the mistakes in the world and be untouchable. Maybe it’s because politicians have more charisma than most journalists. Maybe people just believe what they want to believe. No matter what, I’ll never understand why journalists are trusted less than the politicians they report on.

The Year of Batman Doing Things Batman Wouldn’t Do

(mild spoilers)

People complain that the theaters are filled with super hero movies. Well, 2016 had three theatrical releases with the same super hero: Batman.

Batman Vs. Superman

The Killing Joke

Suicide Squad

Most people didn’t care. The Killing Joke had such a limited theatrical release that it didn’t blip on too many people’s radar screens, and the people it did were happy to have more Bat for their bucks. Suicide Squad wasn’t technically a Batman film. And, finally, he had to share the first one with the big blue boy scout.

However, in each of these three movies, Batman did things that were very un-Batmanlike.

Much has been written about Batman’s murderish thuggery in BvS. In Killing Joke, he crossed the line with Barbara Gordon. In Suicide Squad, he kissed Harley the way someone using roofies would. He also endangered a child when bringing in Deadshot. (Although, it could be argued that he was scaring his daughter to make sure she grows up right.)

Other Worlds cover

It’s true that comic book characters get trapped into never changing for decades. Sometimes, radical changes are forced upon them. But some things are just a part of them. Sure, there are articles showing a bunch of times that Batman used guns. And sure, he killed people even in his first appearance. But after 80 years, with multiple appearances every month during the last few decades, if you can only count on a handful of times that he did those things, then those are the anomalies, not the true character. They were probably lapses in writing, or times when the character hadn’t been fully developed yet.

Heroes should make mistakes. However, these were mistakes Batman wouldn’t make. It makes you wonder who at DC approved these parts of the scripts.

The problem with humor is that you have to be quick about it. The news cycle goes quickly. Before you realize it, people are talking about the next big thing. In order to have great comedic timing, you have to say something no one else has said, and you have to say it quickly.

FBI: Hillary Stupid, Not A Crook

So I tried something. I have a YouTube channel where I spoof the news. I made a satire video about the FBI investigation into whether Hillary Clinton broke the law by using a private e-mail server. I uploaded this video for two reasons: 1. A lot of the news articles I was seeing was missing the point that the investigation was just to see if she was treasonous (in other words if she did it on purpose). And 2: To see if people would click on my video over a week after the news broke.

The Hillary e-mail thing is kind of old news. However, it is proving to have a bit of an evergreen appeal, as people continue to talk about it. Considering it takes a long time for people to actually find my videos, anything I publish is old news.

When I went to college, there were PR companies that would recruit college students to watch a movie and fill out a form on our opinions about it. We had to hide that we were studying film or writing or anything. They only wanted normal people. Nobody who had any background on how to craft a story, or a three-act structure, or the difference between a simile and a metaphor. Just your average Joe.

So, my friend and I were handed tickets to see “Runaway Bride.” We sat toward the back. As the movie started, there was the noise starting behind us. The noise was of people trying desperately to be quiet while they murmured. Now, we had heard that some of the famous actors and actresses that appear in the movies sometimes drop in unannounced to get a feel from the crowd. So, my friend and I asked the people behind us who showed up, thinking it was either Richard Gere or Julia Roberts.

“No one, just the director,” they said.

I was an aspiring writer. My friend, an aspiring director. We didn’t want to meet Richard Gere or Julia Roberts. We wanted to meet Garry Marshall!

At the end of the movie, we filled out our questionnaire and filed out into the lobby. There, we saw Marshall talking with a couple of suits. We came up with something to say to him and waited for an opportunity to sneak in. We stood about 25 feet away and lingered. Marshall had one eye on us for a few minutes. I figured he was trying to figure out a way to ditch us. Instead, he put up his hand to interrupt the suits and walked over to us. That’s right, he stopped talking to the corporate people and made some time to meet us. He asked us our names and what we thought of the movie. Honestly, I don’t remember what I said. My friend said something about the music choices. He thanked us for our feedback and went back to the suits.

It was just a cool moment. He was pretty friendly and just seemed genuine. Every once in a while, you hear about someone meeting a celebrity and he was a decent human being. This was definitely one of those cases.

Short Lives cover 1

SPOILER ALERT…obviously…

carl and ron

At the end of the mid-season finale of Season 6, when virtually every character was in a cliffhanger, Sam has the final lines of the episode: “Mom…Mom…Mom…”

These words haunted me until the premiere aired, and Sam is somehow…fine. He assures his mom he can do this, and they go off together. This little side scene doesn’t really fit, and the only purpose it seemed to serve was to get Gabriel and Judith out of immediate harm.

But they didn’t need to.

They should have just had Sam freak out like we all expected him to do. The sound shuts off, like it did, so we only hear a little of what the characters are saying. Imagine now how much more intense that scene would have been if, when everything got quiet, all we heard was Judith start to cry.

The next few seconds play out as they did. When Carl goes down, we know that Judith is still strapped to him. Rick has to carry them both out.

Dust In The Wind Cover2

A Zombie Mystery available on all e-formats.

In the ensuing chaos, Father Gabriel gets separated from the others. There’s a minute or so of him panicking and you assume he’s not going to make it until he finds safe harbor at the church.

What I Learned: Don’t fool your audience by backtracking over a cliffhanger.